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  • Writer's pictureIlka Knüppel

Why Ruth was originally sent to Neinstedt

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

School where Ruth attended classes at Neinstedt.  Originally named after the Swiss educator, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi.  One of his ideas which was considered innovative at the time, was grouping students together by ability rather than age.

The Role of the Magdeburg Youth Welfare Office

On March 21, 1931, when Ruth was 10 years old, her parents applied to Neinstedt for Ruth’s admission based upon the recommendation from the Magdeburg Youth Welfare Office.  Neinstedt, as described in a previous post, was a home and hospital for persons with disabilities and Ruth would be able to obtain an education. 

Ruth was not getting an education in Magdeburg since public schools at that time did not make accommodations for special needs children.  

The Youth Welfare Offices, or Jugendamt, were:

“...a German local agency set up to promote the welfare of children. Each municipality, town or ‘Kreis’ (county) – depending on its size – has its own ‘Jugendamt’. Its structure is flat and does not have any centralized country-wide coordinating office. In Germany the youth offices were created during the Weimar Republic by the ‘Reichsgesetz für Jugendwohlfahrt’ of 1922... Like many other organisations, the youth offices were terribly abused in Nazi Germany. Since the local organizations function independently there is no actual federal administrative supervision.”

 In 1931, the Magdeburg Youth Welfare Office would have been located at Neuer Weg 1 and 2 and Großen Marktstraße 22 and 23. In 2022, the office is located at Wilhelm-Hopfner-Ring 1 in Magdeburg. 

The same day her parents applied, Ruth’s receiving papers were handed over to the resident doctor at Neinstedt, Dr. Hermann Wittenberg.  He wrote in her records (shown below) upon receipt “For the admission and receiving station”.  

The statement of the doctor and the rest of the paperwork were given to the Directorate on March 24, 1931, and the processing was completed on March 27, 1931.  The paperwork, which included Questionnaires A and B, and baptism and vaccination certifications, arrived at the receiving station in Neinstedt on April 8, 1931.   

Document stating Landeshauptmann-Merseburg had approved the paperwork on April 8, 1931. (Also, noted above, the second admission was approved May 16, 1935. More on that in a later blog post.)

On April 8, approval was officially granted for Ruth’s admission by the Landeshauptmann of the Saxony-Anhalt Province (‘Landeshauptmann’ was a term used in Prussia until 1933 for the head of a government or province and is usually translated as ‘Governor’), Kurt Otto.  Kurt Otto studied law and had headed various tax offices before his appointment to Landeshauptmann.  Kurt Otto was also a leading member of the Nazi party, which he had joined in 1931.  In his role as Landeshauptmann, Kurt Otto played a large part in establishing the euthanasia program.  Reinhard Neumann writes in his book, Nächstenliebe unter einem Dach - Neinstedter Geschichte - Von den Anfängen bis in unsere Zeit, that July 26, 1938, marks the beginning of the tragedy at Neinstedt. On that date, Neinstedt personnel received the letter Kurt Otto had written in which he stated that in view of the fact that there are a large number of free places in the state sanatoriums under his control, around 80 to 90 patients must be transferred there to cover the costs. (The number ended up being exceedingly higher.)  According to documents discovered after the war, the Merseburg authorities, including Kurt Otto, had been informed of the transfers and their association with the intention of euthanasia

They knew what the authorities were planning. 

Landeshauptmann Kurt Otto would be arrested by the Soviet Army on May 26, 1945, and taken to Buchenwald Special Camp No. 2 where he would die on August 9 of a "deficiency disease."

The Lord Mayor, or Oberbürgermeister, of Magdeburg and the Magdeburg Youth Welfare Office both approved Ruth’s admission to Neinstedt on April 8, 1931.  The Lord Mayor of Magdeburg in 1931 was Hermann Beims, the champion of affordable family housing in the Baushaus style in Stadtfeld West where Ruth’s family would move in 1933.  Neinstedt placed Ruth with the other girls her age in the dorm style housing named the Mädchenhaus das Johannenhof (Young Girls’ home of Johannenhof section) on the campus. 

Neinstedt’s Johannenhof complex:  Kirche (church), Mӓdchenhaus (Girls’ House), Schule (School), and Knabenhaus (Boys’ House).  

Ruth lived in the Mӓdchenhaus. Postcard in the Public Domain.

Das Mädchenhaus des Johannenhof in the 1930’s.  Postcard in the public domain.

Vintage postcard of the building Ruth lived in. Public domain. And Das Mädchenhaus des Johannenhof in June 2022.  Author’s photograph.

Schoolgirls’ dormitory on the Third Floor of the Mӓdchenhaus. Postcard in the Public Domain.

It does not appear that the Neinstedt staff knew of the nefarious plans of the Merseburg authorities and the Landeshauptmann Kurt Otto.

Ruth’s Going Home

In April of 1934, Paul heard from his wife after her visit to Neinstedt that Ruth was no longer attending school classes.  Ruth would have turned 14 years old that year and typically in Germany at that time,  schooling stopped at age 14.  Paul wrote a letter to the pastor at Neinstedt explaining, that since the main purpose they had sent Ruth to the institution was for her schooling, and that was no longer happening they would bring Ruth home.

Author’s Translation:

            Elisabeth Foundation Neinstedt

                                                                                             Eing. – April 4, 1934.  J. No. E 640

Dear Pastor,

As my wife was informed when visiting our daughter Ruth Mühlmann, she is now exempt from attending school because of the dissolution of the class and the achievement of aging out [Age 14].  Since our main purpose of sending Ruth was for her schooling we would like Ruth to return home.

I ask you to inform me either which one I have to do to achieve that, or if that happens there from your side to make that happen.

Thanking you for your effort in advance, greets you with a German greeting.

                                                                                 /s/Paul Mühlmann

                                                                                 Magdeburg – W.

                                                                         Wallbeckerstr.  37 II

Dr. Wittenberg wrote a note at the bottom of this letter that stated if Ruth was excused from going to school, the doctor in Magdeburg had to be informed of it. 

Neinstedt responded in writing to Paul on April 20, 1934, that the institution’s doctor had no objections to the dismissal of the patient Ruth Mühlmann.  

This is the first piece of correspondence concluding with the valediction of “Heil Hitler!”  

Author’s translation:

April 20, 1934 

757 Originally written with 2 attachments 


The Chief President Administration of the provincial association In Merseburg 

With the following report of our institute doctor. Our doctor has no objections to the dismissal of the patient Ruth Mühlmann from the institute and we agree with the opinion of the doctor and asked him to decide on the dismissal. 

Heil Hitler! 

The Board of the Neinstedter Elisabeth Foundation

And with that, on May 7, 1934, Ruth went home with her family to Walbecker Strasse 37. If only she had stayed with them permanently....

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